Fundraising with Gratitude
Posted on: November 16, 2021 at 3:25 pm

By: Katie Kinder DeBauche, Associate

“It’s almost the end of the year! When is the end of the year appeal going to be in mailboxes?”  How often have you heard this from board members and other stakeholders; volunteers and staff; or even clients? It’s that time again – the end of the year fundraising push – now known as “Giving Season” and it arrives earlier and earlier each year.

As you’re reading this, you, too, may be putting together your end of the year appeal to close the budget, better serve existing clients, or meet the ever-growing needs in your community. The year-end appeal mailing is the best bang for your buck – a one size fits all approach to fundraising with the goal of maximizing your time and energy and yielding greater philanthropic returns. This year, I hope you will also consider the importance of gratitude in building meaningful connections with individual donors who have buoyed us through this prolonged pandemic and have been with us even before these trying times.

Earnest and honest gratitude is philanthropy’s best kept secret. Building relationships with individual donors is key to our important work to advance philanthropy. We know we need to express thanks, gratitude, and recognition to our donors. And you know this too, of course. But do you actually do it? If not, here are two easy places to start.

  1. Write two handwritten thank you notes a day: of course, you send out the perfunctory tax acknowledgement receipt, but the magic of a handwritten note can’t be matched. Express earnest and honest thanks and share why their investment, no matter how great or small, makes a difference for your organization and the clients you serve. My hope is you get into what I call “the thank you loop,” where you receive a handwritten thank you note in response to your handwritten thank you note. It has happened to me more than a few times.
  2. Call a donor to say thank you: It sounds so simple, but I guarantee you that not many folks are doing this work. Be prepared to have the donor think you’re asking for more money, though. My tip is to smash together your introduction and purpose like this “My name is Name from the Organization and I’m just calling to say thank you for your donation.” Once you get to thank you, the donor’s tone will likely change. You can even throw in an “I’m not asking you for a donation – just wanted to say thank you,” if you really need it. This is an opportunity to build a meaningful relationship. Use this method as the springboard to visit with your donors and learn more about them, why they give to your organization, why this work is important to them.

But does this work? I know it sounds simple, but I have a simple answer for you: yes, it works. I once worked at a non-profit organization where a single thank you call from a donor giving a transactional gift once a year transformed into a major gift the next year. The following year, they were one of the largest individual donors to the organization. And get this – I never actually met this person in person and it was pre-pandemic. It started with earnest and honest gratitude.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I challenge you to begin this critical work to build relationships from a place of gratitude.